All of a sudden, Chicago is a-flurry with regional fast food finding homes in the Midwest. Sonic landed in the city and suburbs with a huge flurry of press, and California's Fatburger came to town with a lot of help from one Mr. Kanye West. So why the big deal about Five Guys? It helps if you make the comparison that many people like to jump to: think "East Coast answer to In-N-Out Burger."
The parallels are clear: No frozen meat, fresh veggies and hand-cut potatoes for the fries, and a minimal menu. Burgers, fries, hot dogs, and soda. That's about it. There's just a touch of roadhouse as well, with free peanuts on hand to enjoy and discard where one sees fit. Peanut allergics, beware.
So does it work? The burgers are of a much higher quality than your Burger King or McD's, as you'd expect, but cooked to their specs – not yours (which means a pretty constant well-done). Building your own burger with all the free fixins you can fit in your maw is great – you can make a jalapeno and A-1 burger if that's what rings your bell. Fresh potatoes are always going to be better than the plastic-y, processed frozen junk you get just about everywhere, and the dedication to fresh ingredients is always appreciated.
But if you want a cheap, quick burger with personality that’s not "fast food," why not just go to someplace like Top Notch Beefburgers, or even the Diner Grill or Billy Goat Tavern – two joints that offer more of a certain ambiance than dining bliss. Some Oak Parkers may find Five Guys fascinating, but other outposts opening in the city might find that the "real thing" holds much more appeal. However, advertising budgets for those "real thing" places are much smaller, so expect Five Guys to make a dent in the city's hamburger skyline.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars